Moral Teachings of Islam- Diet: Pork (Religious Aspects)

Summary of 6.8 “Diet: General”

Last week we continued our discussion on prohibitions in Islam and more specifically on the issue of dietary laws.’ We sited the verse in the Quran (5:3) that summarizes prohibited foods in Islam.’ These foods include an animal that died on its own, from a fall, of strangulation, beaten to death, gored to death and eating pork.

We discussed possible explanations of the prohibition of eating meat that falls under these categories.’ This involves the question of cleanliness and protection of health.’ We also covered the question of mercy to animals even when killed for food.’ This lead us to cover the rules in Islam for killing animals for food which includes sharpening the knife, not being cruel to the animal, not killing an animal in front of another animal, not sharpening the knife in front of the animal and so on.’ This fit together as we discussed procedure and attitude towards animals in general.

6.9′ Diet: Pork (Religious Aspects)

Host:’ What are the injunctions in the Islam against the eating of pork?

Jamal Badawi:

The prohibition of swine is mentioned in four verses in the Quran.’ These verse verses are found in (2:73), (5:3) which we sited in the last program, (16:15) and (6:145).’ It is interesting to notice that in the first three verses that I mentioned are addressed to Muslims.’ The interesting thing is that in the last one found in (6:145) it addresses all people not necessarily just Muslims.’ ‘Find not in the message received by me by inspiration any (meat) forbidden to be eaten by one who wishes to eat it, unless it be dead meat, or blood poured forth, or the flesh of swine.” In this we see that the Quran asserts that this prohibition did not originate from the last revelation but was revealed to previous prophets in the past and that has been general prohibition that applies to all revealed faith.

Host:’ Is the prohibition of pork limited to the meat or does it include other things as well?

Jamal Badawi:

The prohibition applies to the whole thing.’ In the English translation of the Quran it is written that the flesh is forbidden.’ The original Arabic word is lahm, which is used in the Quran for all edible portions of the pig.’ In the Quran describing the development of the human fetus it uses the word flesh in(23:14) and in (2:259) where it says ‘Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh.” This verse shows that everything that is on the bones is flesh.’ The Quran also refers in (35:12) and (16:14) to fish as lean meat which applies to the whole fish not just parts of it.’ When the Quran describes the animals that are to be sacrificed during the pilgrimage it says in (22:37) ‘It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him.” The Quran says in (56:21) and (52:56) when describing the delights of paradise it talks about all the meat that will be offered so that people can enjoy themselves.’ The Quranic usage of lahm includes any edible part of the animal.

Host:’ What are the similarities between the prohibition in Islam and in Judaism (prohibit pork also)?

Jamal Badawi:

He who revealed the law to Prophet Moses (PBUH) is the same deity who gave the Gospel to Prophet Jesus (PBUH) and is the same who revealed the last scripture the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). ‘The Muslim believes in all those faiths and the prophets that were sent to nations before Islam and that the same basic revelation came from the same God throughout history.

In Leviticus 11:7-8 ‘And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.’ Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.” These statements from the Old Testament are very clear that not only is the swine an unclean animal but that its flesh is prohibited.’ This is not the only reference in the Old Testament prohibiting both Jews and Christians (who both believe in the Old Testament) from eating pork.’ We find for example in Isaiah 65:4 ‘Which each swine’s flesh, and broth of abominable (things is in) their vessels.” In Isaiah 66:17 it again talks about God’s anger against those who eat pork ‘They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one (tree) in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the Lord.” When it says consumed it means by the fire.’ These clear statements in the Old Testament make it clear that God did not make the pig to be eaten as it is consistently prohibited in various scriptures.’ I also remember reading an article years ago that mentioned that in Buddhism swine flesh is also forbidden.

Host:’ Why is it that the Christians community feels that eating pork is permissible?

Jamal Badawi:

I would like to refer to a very interesting booklet which was written by a Christian evangelist, C. Leonard Vories The hog: should it be used for food ‘Not infrequently the assertion is made that the unclean animals were cleansed by the Gospel and it is then declared that the New Testament so teaches.’ Those who have made this subject a study know that the New Testament teaches nothing of this kind.’ They know too that many honest sincere Christians are quoting scriptures which they believe will liberate them to eat of all flesh and many of those scriptures have no reference at all to clean or unclean meat’.” Towards the end of the page he continues to say ‘It is marvelous too, that some persons can advance the argument that the Gospel of Christ changed the nature of the hog, when there is no evidence that they have permitted it to change their own lives.’ If any can really believe the nature of the hog can be changed what must they think its nature was before the change?’ The Gospel has not affected the hog.’ The Bible so clearly and definitely forbids the eating of pork.’ (page 25)

I don’t find this to be very strange because as we quoted before the text of the Old Testament to leave any doubt.’ I also have a quotation from a historical reference Lectures in Christianity by Muhammad Abu-Zahra where he quoted Ibn Al Batrique a historian who wrote about Christianity that in the days of Constantine

(which is when he claimed to have embraced Christianity) many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity but many of the Christians at that time suspected that they converted out of fear.’ It says that the Patriarch of Constantinople went to Constantine and said ‘I suggest that we cook pork and invite those newly converted Christians to eat from it.’ If they refuse, then we know that they are still Jews at heart.” But Constantine said ‘But how?’ Why should we cook a pig, eat it and feed it to other people if it is forbidden in the Old Testament?” Again the Patriarch apparently quoting what appears in the New Testament said that ‘After all it is not the thing that comes into the mouth that causes anyone to be unclean but the things that come out of the mouth.’

It is also said that St. Peter once saw a dream where he saw lots of animals in the dream and he claimed that God appeared to him and said slaughter and kill whatever you like.’ It is quite difficult for me to understand how a dream by any person no matter how pious he could have been could be used as a basis for legislation and making things which are clearly (according to the belief of Jews and Christians) the words of God so easily dismissed.’ The whole notion that after Prophet Jesus (PBUH) came everything became cleansed seems regardless of what it is.’ This also contradicts the statement made by Prophet Jesus in Mathew 5:17 ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.’

If we put all these points together, quite frankly I can’t see any foundation theological or otherwise that justifies pork as legitimate food for Christians.’ I think there are some Christian sects who may not eat prok.

Host:’ What are some of the reasons behind the prohibition of pork in Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

A Muslim who believes in God and commits himself with willing conscious submission to the will of God would find sufficient (even if there are no other reasons) that God ordered this in the Quran.’ The Quran is not a statement made by some human being in accordance to his own whims but the word of God as was revealed word for word to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).’ This means that the Quran is not subject to any deficiency of human beings who might give commands that might not be valid all the time.’ God knows everything, as his knowledge is not restricted to the past, present or future.

In Islam even if a person has this conscious submission doesn’t take faith in a dogmatic way as Islam doesn’t prevent people from thinking and as we said in a different program the first word that was revealed in the Quran was iqra’a read.’ There are two different attitudes towards this issue: one is that if God says not to do something that one won’t do it unless they find the reason and the other one would say ok God says this and thus they trust Him and are prepared to obey Him.’ The second person was not forbidden to study it and find reasons as to why it is forbidden without placing precondition on whether or not they obey.’ Also this person would consider finding the reason a way of strengthening their faith and not finding it would inspire hope of find it in the future.

In (49:1) God says ‘O Ye who believe! Put not yourselves forward before Allah and His Messenger.” In chapter three it describes the believers as those who believe that anything that comes to them is from Allah.’ I would like to add that on the question of diet we have already discussed some of the reasons why various categories could be harmful like blood (we even discussed it form a medical and scientific point of view) and since swine is under the same category then it must be harmful whether we have discovered it or not.

Another point is that in the Quran we find a clear hint (even thought it doesn’t give details about pig meat) in (5:3) when it describes eating pig as ‘impiety.” On the other hand in (6:145) swine meat is described as ‘for it is an abomination – or, what is impious’ which means that there is an aspect of filth involved in pig meat which makes it unfit for human consumption.’ It is well known that a pig by its own nature is a scavenger as it eats anything.’ Once in a public lecture a person asked me ‘why did God create the pig?’ I replied jokingly ‘to eat the garbage.” What I meant was that if we question why God created the pig then why did He create roaches, lizards, insects and all other animals that are not for human consumption.

Reverend Vories describes in his book what happens in farms when they have both poultry and pigs on the same farm.’ He says on page 12 that when a chicken dies they put them in burlap sacks till the meat rots and becomes unbearable, then they take the rotten meat to where the pigs are and it is a site to see how the pigs enjoy eating the rotten meat.’ In another place he says ‘see the him (pig) in the very height of his glory, on top of a manure pile with his head buried in the dung from which exulted site he give expression to his joy and satisfaction by his rhythmical grunts.” This is the nature of the pig and it is no wonder that when people use profanity against each other or try to give an ultimate example of filth they say that it is as dirty as a pig.

Host:’ It is suggested that chicken also eats filth and so why is chicken permissible when pig is prohibited?

Jamal Badawi:

It is true that chickens might get involved in this of activity.’ But there is a big difference between chicken and pigs.’ There is scientific foundation for this as we know that the chicken has two stomachs on is glandular and the gizzard.’ This feature of the chicken is capable of illuminating any impurities that the chicken might have swallowed.’ There are also other animals that eat cud and have three stomachs which have double or triple the cleaning capabilities.’ On the other hand the pig’s stomach is poor in structure and it takes it about three hours to digest whatever food it eats.’ This means that if the pig starts eating filth, manure or rotten meat within three hours the ingested items will pass through the pigs system and will be absorbed as part of his flesh.’ This means that after three hours of the pig having eaten if it is killed and eaten, the person eating it would be eating a dish of processed trash.’ In addition to this in Islamic law if an animal that people eat like chicken, cows, sheep or any other edible animal develops a habit of constantly eating filth it is not permissible to eat it.’ This is called jalalah and it is an animal that is ridden we are not supposed to ride it and for edible animals they must be isolated for a certain amount of time till they are totally cleansed.

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